Body Mounting Kadee 830’s onto an Aristo 100 ton Hopper
Moving beyond factory truck mounted couplers.
By: Keith Stratton

This installment is the third in a series of ‘How To’ articles on body mounting Kadee 830 or 930 straight shank couplers. To find out why I decided to go with body mounted Kadee couplers you can read my first article, which appeared in Issue #130 (November – December 2012).
I purchased a half-dozen Aristo 100 ton hopper cars a couple of years ago and they have sat on the TBM (to be modified) siding since. You see, I just couldn’t figure out how to mount Kadee couplers to them. Sure, I had read a couple articles on the various G-Scale forums on how to do it, but I couldn’t help but think there was an easier/simpler way to do it. Read on and I hope you’ll agree this is about as simple as it can get…

Picture 484

You will see in Picture #484 some typical tools and materials used for the conversion. Naturally there are the couplers, their shims and some screws to hold them in place. The rest is a collection of basic hobby tools such as pin vise with #54 and #65 drills, a scribing tool, a hobby knife with a #11 blade, a pair of HO spiking pliers, a wire stripper/cutter, a chisel, a Phillips screwdriver and an Atlas super saw. If you look real close by the screws, you’ll see four tiny finishing nails that are central to the success of this installation!

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Picture 485

First thing to do is take off the stock trucks in picture #485 and replace the plastic wheels with steel ones and also cut off the truck mounted coupler tab. Picture #504 shows the modified trucks ready for installation, which will be done towards the end of the conversion process.

Picture 486

Picture 490

You can see the coupler mounting pad in picture #486 and this is where the problem lies for this type of rolling stock. The pad is not connected to the end of the car frame and deflects easily, as shown in picture #490. The brake wheel end has a stiffer / thicker pad, but the same problem exists. When hauling heavy or long trains the couplers will deflect downwards, which looks bad and could lead to un-couplings. Once the free floating ends are be stabilized and secured firmly to the end frames, the rest of the installation is very straightforward.

Picture 494

Picture 497

What we are going to do is drill holes through the end of the car frame and into the end of the coupler mounting tabs and for this we will use a #65 drill. Picture #494 shows the holes being drilled in the non-brake end of the car. You have to drill at a slight angle to penetrate the mounting tabs but don’t sweat it, you’ll get the hang of it real quick. Picture #497 shows the relative position of the two holes in the car end frame.

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Picture 501

The pins being inserted into the holes in picture #499 are tiny finishing nails with the heads cut off (that’s what the wire stripper/cutter was used for). They are about the same diameter as a push-pin or thumb-tack. Anything will do, so long as you have a numbered drill very close to the same diameter. I also dabble in HO so what you see is a pair of Xuron spiking pliers being used to push the pins in, but just about anything could work here. Picture #501 shows the fully inserted pins, which were slightly recessed with the help of a scribing awl. The holes can then be filled and painted if you so desire.

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Picture 503

Pictures #502 and #503 show the brake end of the car and the pins about to be pushed into place.
That’s it my friends. That is all it takes to secure the floating ends of the mounting plates to the ends of the car frames. The setup does not take very long, uses very little material, is remarkably robust and creates the ideal condition for mounting your Kadee 830 or 930 couplers.

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Picture 506

For the mounting of the couplers on the non-brake end of the car, picture #505 shows how to use one of the shims to locate the mounting holes (we will be using the center line holes). Line up the shim as shown and while holding the shim firmly in position, take a scribe and mark both center holes. Push and twist the scribe point into the center mark to create an indent for the drill. A #54 drill bit is used to drill the pilot holes for the mounting screws. Screw in a #4 pan head screw into the pilot holes and then back them out. Trim flush the extruded / raised ring of plastic that forms around the hole. This raised edge must be cut, shaved or chiseled
off otherwise the coupler draft gear box will not have a flush fit against the underside of the mounting pad. Picture #506 shows the coupler installed using two #4 x ¾” pan head Phillips screws. My layout has wide sweeping curves (minimum 20’ diameter / 10’ radius) however, if your layout has tight radius curves you will need to cut off the side mounting holes that extend outwards on either side of the coupler draft gear box. I usually paint the screw heads black or brown so they blend in but have left them unpainted in the pictures so you can see them better.

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Picture 510

Pictures #508 and #510 show the positioning of the coupler screw mounting holes for the brake wheel end of the car. For this end you will use one #4 x ¾” pan head screw in the center of the coupler draft gear box and a #4 x 1” pan head screw at the rear of the coupler draft gear box.
Now it is time to put the trucks back on and check the coupler height against a Kadee height gauge. You will need two x 1/16’ shims and it should line up just right, but have a couple of 1/32” shims handy for final adjustments!

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Shown in picture #513 are converted hopper cars, with a 930 (brown) coupler on the left and a 830 (black) coupler on the right.

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Picture 515

Once I finished converting all of my Aristo 100 ton Hoppers, I looked through my roster and found the USA Trains Woodchip Hoppers have the same issue. They have ready-to-mount pads designed to accept Kadee couplers already in-place so installing them is a breeze. To stabilize the ends drill and insert pins just like we just did to the Aristo hoppers. Pictures #514 and #515 show both ends of the Woodchip Hoppers with Kadee 830’s installed and if you look ever so closely you can see the pinholes used to stabilize the coupler mounting pads.
Viola, that’s it… now you are ready to roll. I hope you have found this information helpful, even if you don’t run Kadee’s!!! Stay tuned for more articles on how to install these wonderful couplers on our 1/29th scale treasures… *